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Bowlby, J. (1981). IV John Bowlby. Psychoanal. Rev., 68(2):187-190.
    

(1981). Psychoanalytic Review, 68(2):187-190

IV John Bowlby

John Bowlby, M.D.

It was Freud's most earnest desire that the theories he advanced to explain the observations he was making whilst treating his patients by his new-found ‘talking cure’ should conform to the highest scientific standards. With this end in view he built his model of the psychic apparatus using concepts derived from the great scientists of his day. As Ernest Jones remarks, by the time Freud drew on these ideas they were already “familiar and widely accepted throughout the educated and particularly the scientific world”2. The psychical energy model Freud proposed was thus a model brought to psychoanalysis from elsewhere and in no way one derived by him from his clinical experience.

For eighty years now Freud's original model has been revised and revised, but the hiatus between each version and the day to day clinical findings of analysts has never been bridged. As a result the constant intellectual to and fro of data to theory and theory to data that characterizes a growing science has never occurred. Moreover, as the neurological and biological sciences have developed, the theoretical model, introduced initially in order to link the new findings with established science, has come to have precisely the opposite effect. Sadly, it has led psychoanalysis into a scientific wilderness.

One reaction to this sorry state of affairs is to despair of ever relating psychoanalysis to the traditional sciences. The material of psychoanalysis, it is sometimes contended, is not of a kind that can be dealt with by means of conventional scientific procedures: it needs special procedures of its own. An alternative reaction is to search the current scientific scene to discover whether any of the more recent concepts and theories that have been developed can be harnessed to provide a model for psychoanalysis better fitted to its subject matter. This is what Emanuel Peterfreund has done.

Taking as his starting point “the clinical psychoanalytic process and the phenomenon of insight,” he has sought explanatory concepts that are both apt and also consistent with twentieth century science.

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